Wally Knott on saw and his partner Red Meyers at Meades Creek Oct. 1945 by W.H.Gold PhotoMOFM Logo
Bikar Mann

Bikar MannMy family is originally from a small village in the northern part of India.   My Dad’s brother first came to California in 1906 on a steam ship.   He encouraged my Dad (Maluk Singh) to join him, and in 1924 Dad came to California to work.  My father then moved to BC in 1932 where he got a job at old Hillcrest Lumber Company working on Hillcrestthe green chain.  In 1933, he moved back to India, got married and had a family - I was born in the mid-1930’s in India.  In 1938, my father moved back to BC and worked at Hillcrest again.  Then World War II started – at that time East Indians were not allowed to bring their families to join them, so my father moved back and forth to India in the 1940’s.  In 1954, my father brought me back with him as the eldest son to BC to work in the forest industry (at Hillcrest).  I was seventeen at the time, and I had to wait until I turned eighteen before I was allowed to start work at Hillcrest.  So at eighteen I began to work alongside my father at Hillcrest.   He returned to India in the late 1950’s, and my wife joined me in the early 1960’s at Hillcrest.   We lived in a Company house and started a family there.    

Hillcrest was a tight-knit community and a nice place to grow up.  There was lots of cultural diversity at the camp and we all worked together, but there were still separate bunkhouses and cookhouses for the different nationalities.  Back in India, religion was a very large part of our lives.  When we moved out here it took some time to change to the Western style of life, but it seemed to be more relaxed.  We were able to take parts of our traditional East Indian lifestyle and mesh it with the Western lifestyle; thereby giving us the best of both worlds.

Manjeet, Jas, Harinder, and SwarnoMy first job at Hillcrest was on the green chain.  It was hard work – back in India, we didn’t have heavy woodwork like that; there was only farming in the Old Country.  After working on the green chain, I progressed to pulling lumber and grading.

I remember this guy I used to work with while I was pulling lumber, he was the ‘Grader’.  He had a habit of smoking, and back then there weren’t any coffee breaks.  We had to work four hours, then we could take lunch, and then we worked another four hours.  We were only allowed to smoke in the washrooms, which were a couple hundred feet from the work site.  So in the morning, the Grader would go for a smoke while everyone else waited to start work; but they couldn’t start without the Grader.  So this happened a couple of times, and one day he said to me, “When I’m not here, just grab the chalk and just start marking here on the lumber.”  I told him that I didn’t know how to grade lumber.  So he said, “Just mark the lumber, and then the PLIB (Pacific Lumber Inspection Bureau) Inspector will correct you if you are wrong.”  This went on for awhile, and when September came around, he said, “Why don’t you come to grading class with me so that you can learn to grade lumber correctly!”  So, I took the classes, and in 1957 I got my Lumber Grading Ticket; but I didn’t get a job as a Grader until five years later.  Back then jobs weren’t posted or awarded by seniority, but the Union negotiated this right in 1962, so I was finally able to get a job grading lumber.

Later on, I had to re-do the Grading Course, and I ended up getting very good marks.  Peter Stone, who was the owner of the mill at that time, said, “You got a really good score, so why don’t you go to the BC Lumber Grading Championship?”  The first year I went, I placed thirty-ninth out of eighty.  I went for another couple of years, and kept placing better.  Then finally, in 1970, I won first place in the BC Lumber Father and SonGrading Championship!

I worked as a Grader at Hillcrest until it closed in 1968… a total of about fourteen years.  I took some pictures of my family at Hillcrest just after it closed in 1968.   After it closed down, I moved to the Lower Mainland and got a job with MacMillan Bloedel in New Westminster.   Overall, I worked for over forty-six years in the forest industry on the south coast of BC.   I wanted to also help my families, so I sponsored to Canada several members of my extended family from India over the decades, and some are still living on Vancouver Island.   Many of them worked in the forest industry as well, including at Hillcrest.

The best part of my life was at Hillcrest, as I was growing and learning.  I put my roots in this community here, and my kids are even attached to it.  All three of my children were born here while I worked at Hillcrest.